Fish and other seafood have always played an important role in the life of Europeans. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, fish accounts for approximately 16% of the animal protein consumed by the inhabitants of the planet. However, the appetites of civilization are growing.
How industrial fishing is destroying ecosystems.
The oceans are inhabited by dozens of commercial fish and invertebrate species - from flounders and crabs at the bottom to tuna and mackerels in the water column. Fishing boats go out to sea every day to bring all this wealth to our table. However, along the way, they inflict colossal damage to everything that comes their way. Two fishing methods are especially destructive for nature: bottom trawling and drifter fishing.
The trawl is a gigantic bag-shaped net. To open the mouth of the trawl and keep it in this position, special spacers are used on the sides, the so-called trawl doors. During bottom trawling, a heavy structure is dragged along the bottom, gathering its tasty inhabitants ...
... and destroys everything else at the same time. Dragging along the bottom, the net destroys fragile corals and tears up algae forests. Both are so-called edificators - species that create habitats for other members of the ecosystem. Reefs and underwater thickets are home to thousands of different species of creatures. After their destruction, the territory swept by the trawl automatically becomes a lifeless desert.
The damage is especially great in the places where the trawl boards mentioned above pass, because the weight of such a structure is several tons. As if this is not enough, clouds of sediment rise from the bottom. When they return to the bottom, clouds of turbidity often bury entire coral reefs beneath them. Imagine how a huge forest is being bulldozed to catch a few squirrels on a fur coat, and get a comprehensive idea of trawl fishing.
Thus, studies have shown that on the Norwegian shelf, such fishery destroyed 30-50% of the reefs of the unique deep-sea coral Lophelia pertusa. These pale "bushes" are one of the few corals that do not need sunlight to grow. Surviving at depths unsuitable for their colorful cousins, lofelias create unique reefs - hotspots for deep-sea biodiversity. A wide variety of animals live here - from starfish and lobsters to sharks. These oases are also important for commercial fish such as seabass (Sebastes marinus) and lemongrass (Brosme brosme), whose population density on reefs is much higher than in surrounding waters. The devastation of such areas threatens the very existence of local fish populations. At the same time, the lost bottom ecosystems are being restored at a truly snail's pace. The same long-suffering lofelias grow only 1 millimeter per year! In other ecosystems, the process is faster, but also not at the speed of light. Scientists in Europe call numbers from two to six and a half years - depending on the frequency of trawling and the type of biome studied.
But let's leave the trawls aside and look at the drift nets. As the name suggests, they drift in the upper and middle layers of the water. These fishing gear are not anchored and are kept upright by floats on the surface. This fishing method is extremely effective - not only due to the huge amount of fish caught, but also due to the very low fuel consumption when setting nets. So what's the problem?
The pelagial (that is, the water column) is inhabited not only by commercial fish, but also by other animals. Sea turtles, dolphins, seals, fish-eating birds, for example gannets ... All of these creatures do not have gills - they need to emerge periodically to breathe in the atmospheric air. And they often get entangled in drift nets, almost invisible in the water. Fishing gear can stay in the water for several days, condemning the marine life caught in them to a slow, painful death from suffocation.
But the worst thing happens when the drift net is detached from the ship - during a storm or, for example, due to currents. Such ghost nets set off on long-term voyages across the ocean - and the marine fauna continues to get entangled in them.
Synthetic nets do not rot and do not disappear anywhere; they only briefly sink to a depth under the weight of dozens of decomposing corpses.
But when the animals finally decay, the ghosts rise from the depths again to continue their endless deadly journey through the waves. He came himself: why the bycatch issue really matters "Unwanted" animals that are caught by fishermen during fishing are called by-catch. These are not only the aforementioned turtles, cetaceans, seals and birds, but also, for example, rays, sharks, as well as species of bony fish that are not used in the food industry. The scale of this phenomenon is truly catastrophic.
Fortunately, the situation with the fish and seafood industry is gradually improving. Many countries prohibit drifter fishing, nets are equipped with special devices that free turtles and dolphins from them, and local residents, who recently sold shark meat to Chinese dealers, become guides in ecotourism companies.
Moreover, every volunteer can contribute to the fate of our shared oceans. It is sufficient not to eat destructive species such as flounder caught by bottom trawls or endangered species such as tuna. If you have a choice, it's best not to support an ocean-killing industry. May the amazing in its diversity, colorful and majestic life be preserved in the waters of our planet.